Betrayal of a Scottish Regiment
In the spring of 1743 The Black Watch regiment was ordered to muster in Perth. There, in March of that year, they were surprised to be informed that orders had been received to march the regiment to England, an instruction they considered to be contrary to their understanding (when regimented), that the sphere of their services would not extend beyond the borders of Scotland.
To deceive the men, (from whom their real destination was concealed), they were told by their officers that the object of the march to England was merely to gratify the curiosity of the king, who was desirous of seeing a Highland regiment. Reluctantly accepting this explanation, (Others were convinced it was a ploy to round up Scottish soldiers and get them out of Scotland) they proceeded on their march.
Weeks later, as they approached London they were exposed to taunts and increasing hostility of large crowds of drunken English peasants and became gloomy and sullen. They were affronted by the rudeness of the English especially since they were only in the country at the invitation of the Sovereign.
On reaching London the soldiers discovered that the King had left England for Hanover on the very day the highlanders had arrived and that a gross deception had been practised upon the regiment and that the real design of the government, fearing unrest in Scotland was to get rid of them altogether, as disaffected persons, and, with that view, that the regiment was to be transported for life to the American plantations.
That same evening 100 highlanders, (thinking they were avoiding deportation to the colonies) took it upon themselves to go home to Scotland. A few days later they were surrounded by a Regiment of English cavalry. Officers of the regiment met with the men and after listening to their grievances gave assurance that if they surrendered they would be pardoned. They laid down their arms and returned to the regiment.
After investigation and acceptance by the Westminster government that the men had been duped by their officers it was decided that it could not overlook such a gross breach of military discipline.
The deserters were accordingly arrested and thrown into prison. Weeks later all 100 men were found guilty of treason by a general court-martial and were sentenced to be shot. An later appeal court changed the punishment, (after confirming the finding of guilt) sentencing 3 leaders of the alleged mutiny to death. The other 97 soldiers were sentenced to be banished for life to the colonies.
Corporals (brothers) Malcolm and Samuel Macpherson, and Private Farquhar Shaw were taken to the Tower of London and shot. They are buried there together in one grave .
The remaining 97 highlanders were equally divided between the garrisons of Gibraltar and Minorca, and a similar corps in the Leeward islands, Jamaica and Georgia. Confirmation in their belief that the government had indeed intended to deceive them. They never returned to Scotland.
The regiment was later reinforced and sent to Flanders to join the English army, fighting for German Geordie. In 1745 they were based in Kent kept well away from their troubled country but were tasked to Scotland at the end of 1745, to participate in a slash and burn campaign in the highlands not long after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charles at Culloden. They departed Scotland in 1746 to fight for the Unionist cause and did not return to Scotland until 1790.
The fears of the brave men of Scotland that they would be deployed to the Colonies was well founded. They were betrayed by Unionist supporters (their officers) who were sold to the concept that Scotland and England were “better together”.
A similar “better together” group actively participated in a war of attrition against their countrymen in 2014 denying (in the name of the Union) Scots the freedom which is rightfully theirs.
British Black Watch Highlanders at the Battle of Alma